What makes a family “holy”?  This weekend’s feast makes for an easy answer:  it means living with Jesus, Mary & Joseph.  Nothing could be simpler, and nothing could more easily disqualify us from being holy families (much to some families’ relief:  no pressure now).  But this would be wrong.

Yes, we are indeed called to be “holy families.”  The Psalmist reminds us:  “Holiness is fitting to your house, O Lord/Until the end of time” (Ps 93:5).  And we are to be that house (after all, Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church assures us we are living stones in the Temple of the Holy Spirit).  So what are we to do?  Let’s look at life in Nazareth for some help.

It was a small nuclear family:  one child, and both parents.  The “one child” half of this would be normal today; the two-parent half, sadly, becoming more and more extraordinary.  Yet our one-child “normal” part would have been a rarity then (indeed, perhaps considered a curse); our extraordinary two-parent household would have been typical (at least, until one or the other of the spouses died).  Mary was domestic; Joseph was a skilled craftsman, and he brought his adoptive Son up in the same profession.  Jesus was known as “the carpenter,” and “the son of the carpenter” (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55).  How often do crafts and skills and professions and livelihoods get handed down from father to son!  Less so, today, than in the past…

So they were in some ways what would have been expected, and in some ways rather set off—then as now.  This gives us a clue on how to be “holy families” today.  In essence, it means being prayerful and God-centered while doing and being who and what we are, where we are.

We don’t have to be THE Holy Family to be A “holy family.”  Where is the presence of mutual love and respect in your husband/wife and parent/child relationships?  Where is the value of prayer?  It’s really as simple as those two questions, and their answers, as to what constitutes a “holy family” today.  You don’t have to be a stay-at-home Mom; you don’t have to be a craftsman; you don’t have to be the Son of God.  You can be a computer analyst, or a day laborer; you can do home-schooling or volunteer in the school’s classrooms or lunchrooms; you can play soccer or baseball or be in the band.  Or not!  All that matters to make you (as individuals and as family units) holy is to focus on love relationships and prayer (and the outreach in loving generosity that naturally is the fruit of these).  Yes, we can do it—and looking at the lack of holiness in the world (with the reality of violence, terrorism, bigotry, racism, materialism swallowing our culture), we need it more than ever.  Are we up for it?  Fr Victor recently challenged us to begin to form a “culture of vocation”—of listening for and obeying God’s call in our hearts.  It’s your vocation; it’s our vocation.  God will lead us by the right paths; God will confirm us as holy families; God will bless the people with peace.